We will continue to add information about fertilizer issues in Washington. Below are links to local ordinances affecting phosphorus fertilizer. If you have additional questions please contact Washington Friends of Farms & Forests.
Resources for additional information
July 12, 2012
Phosphorus Fertilizer Law Implementation
The new law limiting the use of fertilizer containing phosphorus on turf goes into effect January 1, 2013.
Any fertilizer labeled for use on turf, that lists phosphorus in its guaranteed analysis, may not be applied to turf in Washington State unless it is for the purpose of establishing grass or repairing damaged grass or for use in an area where a soil test taken within three years shows the soil to be deficient in plant available phosphorus.
In addition, it cannot be displayed or sold or unless it meets one of the exemptions. If it is labeled for establishing new grass, repairing turf or for use on shrub or flowerbeds, grass grown for sod, agriculture or trees it is exempt.
Implementation of this law presents a variety of questions; some more clear than others. “Establishing grass or repairing damaged grass” is defined as using either seeds or sod, during the growing season in which the grass is established. With sports turf, golf courses and parks, much of the work is establishing or repairing damaged grass. Over seeding, patching and other activities are done for the purpose of repairing turf.
The tricky part will be availability of fertilizer containing phosphorus for the unrestricted uses of establishment, repair and deficient soil. There are some fertilizers labeled for establishing new lawns and for patching turf. These should be readily available. Customers are free to purchase these as they wish.
As with many state laws, enforcement of the use provisions of the law will be only through complaints.
Cities and counties are not expected to enforce the law. That is up to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), however, nothing prevents cities or counties from adopting more stringent regulations.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture conducts routine inspections of retail establishments to ensure compliance with all fertilizer and pesticide laws. This new law will be incorporated into the routine inspection program.
WSDA also randomly samples fertilizer to ensure compliance with the guaranteed analysis. So far, all fertilizers labeled as phosphorus free have been found to be accurately labeled.
Prior to January 1, it would be wise to check with your fertilizer supplier and discuss your expected needs for the coming year to help ensure availability.
This issue is not over yet. Several companies that market biosolids as fertilizer want to be exempted from this law. They are expected to propose legislation again in 2013. Biosolids have a higher phosphorus to nitrogen ratio than commercially blended fertilizer. When applied at the appropriate rate for nitrogen, excess phosphorus is applied. Since the stated intent of the law was to limit the use of phosphorus on turf, exempting biosolids would appear counterproductive. Nonetheless, many legislators supported the idea because it sounded like the politically correct thing to do. When the 2013 legislative session begins in January, watch for further developments.